Tempe High School plans to be home to the East Valley’s newest International Baccalaureate program.
It takes two years to apply for the prestigious high school program, but the school has already started the process, said Kate Glenn, assistant principal.
She is accepting applications from 25 to 30 incoming high school freshmen, who will take two years of challenging classes to prepare them for the diploma program, which is for juniors and seniors.
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, created in 1968 and slowly gaining in interest in the Southwest, offers a demanding interdisciplinary curriculum that includes an international view of world history and philosophy. Students also must take music courses, write a 4,000-word essay and commit to community service.
Currently, Westwood High School in Mesa and Chandler High School are the only two south East Valley schools with the program. Two schools in Scottsdale have the programs, too.
Earlier this year, the Tempe Union High School District governing board allotted $24,000 to train school staff in implementing the program.
“We’ve been studying IB for over a year in our district,” Glenn said. “The faculty even voted if it was something we wanted to pursue and they overwhelmingly said ‘Yes, this sounds great. Let’s do it.’”
While the course is rigorous, Glenn said it’s not only for gifted students.
“The curriculum targets students who are self-motivated and capable, who work hard,” she said. “I don’t want to kid anyone; it is rigorous. But the students who succeed in the program are a wide range — gifted kids, honors kids ... regular education kids.”
Most of the students who have expressed interest are from the district, but Glenn said she hopes it will attract students from surrounding cities.
City Councilwoman Onnie Shekerjian has been a staunch supporter of bringing an IB program to Tempe.
The location at Tempe High is good, she said, because the school has a high number of students from low-income backgrounds, and the federal government is trying to encourage rigorous programs, like IB, at lower-income schools.
When the school district told the council about its plans, members agreed to help find funding, she said.
“We’ve got our state lobbyists working at the Capitol to help fund international programs and we’re working with a federal lobbyist to see if there are some grants available,” she said. “They realize we really need to be providing more choices.”
• For information or an application, call Kate Glenn at (480) 736-4103.